Cuts to the budget for managing crown lands in NSW will jeopardise the processing of Aboriginal land claims and hit business owners seeking to lease crown land, the NSW Public Service Association (PSA) said today.
Employees at the office of Crown Lands, within the Department of Primary Industries, were told this week they must find savings of $13 million over four years, said Steve Turner, Assistant Secretary of the PSA.
One hundred and seventy five positions will be affected in a state-wide shake-up, which will see some functions relocated from Sydney to Newcastle and Dubbo.
“The State Government is using the rhetoric of regionalisation to cut jobs and cripple agencies,” said Mr Turner.
“We’re seeing jobs cut from regional areas which will hit their economies. But we’ll also see impacts on everyone with an interest in NSW’s extensive crown lands, including farmers, businesses, other industry groups, local government and Aboriginal communities seeking land claims.”
The Sydney offices responsible for processing Aboriginal land claims and researching land tenure for native title claims will be closed and relocated to Newcastle and Dubbo. It will result in a loss of valuable skill and experience in a specialised area and reduce access to the central record-keeping facilities in Sydney.
“There is already a backlog of thousands of Aboriginal claims over crown lands in NSW. The priority should be to move through these claims, rather than close the offices processing them and jeopardise the management of future claims.
“In other crown lands offices, there are situations where 10 staff have been told they will all be applying for one position.
“Most regional offices have had their staffing cut by about half. These cuts compound on the last two rounds of cuts which has seen 100 positions lost from regional locations since 2009.
“The NSW Government has announced a review of the Crown Lands and Aboriginal Land Claims Acts, both critical to the operations. They should be restructuring after these reviews, not before.”
Jobs affected in the Crown Lands restructure are in Sydney, Orange, Bega, Moruya, Bathurst, Newcastle, Taree, Grafton, Armidale, Tamworth, Dubbo, Griffith, Wollongong, Wagga and Goulburn. The PSA will be travelling to these areas over the next fortnight to speak with members about the changes.